Out of the two religious themed films released this year, as in epic retelling of bible stories versus the feel good films also hitting theatres in 2014, Ridley Scott, with his epic tale of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, is to be congratulated for having the moxie, or belief in his subject matter, to allow his biblical vision to actually mention the “big guy” or God. The film, which the English director dedicated to his late brother Tony, feels almost like a homage to David Lean, another English director, sort of a Lawrence of Arabia meets Moses of Canaan, if you will.
The film looks brilliant and a lot of the computer generated plagues of Egypt look very impressive. In fact, most of the CG looks flawless so there is very little to complain about there. The biggest problem has to do with the changes, or additions to the Biblical tale of Moses and his historic saving of the Children of Israel from the Pharaoh Ramses. The variations apparently had to do with Christian Bale fitting his casting as the modern day Charlton Heston who played the role in the 1956 The Ten Commandments with Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses.
While Heston was the perfect choice to play the bible’s leader who rescued his people from slavery and then later went up and brought back the ten commandments, not once, but twice, Bale does not really seem to fit. The actor specializes in playing tortured characters in films like Batman, American Psycho, et al. Moses may have had issues, for instance neither the Cecil B.DeMille feature or Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, mention that the man whom God chose to be his representative in Egypt had a stutter and that it was Aaron who really did all the talking.
To be fair to Scott, his version excludes the Pharaoh’s court where staffs are turned into snakes and Moses’ reptile devours the court wizards’ snakes before turning back into wood. It is a shame that did not make it into the film, also missing was the second trip back up the mountain and the gold calf statue that the Israelites made while Moses was up getting the first stone tablet. A few things were added, like Moses being a general in the army and the Red Sea is not parted so much as rolled back, there appears to be some sort of tornado or waterspout activity that aids this feat while Moses leads the exodus across the damp sea bottom.
Perhaps the biggest let down of the film is having God portrayed as a child. The burning bush is a mere device to grab Moses’ attention and it says not one word in Exodus: Gods and Kings and instead it is the child who tells his chosen leader what he must do. This may lead to some interesting exchanges between the two but it does ignore the source material. It also feels like Ray Bradbury came back from his grave and helped out on the script. In the original Star Trek show, God was depicted as a child at least once. So points-off for a lack of originality and to be honest, if the filmmaker is going to change the Bible it behooves the adaptor to be unique in their choice of what replaces that burning bush.
In terms of cast, apart from Christian Bale’s tortured Moses, in Exodus: Gods and Kings, the film has some heavy hitters. Sigourney Weaver, who literally has about three lines in the entire film, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, who suffers pretty much the same fate as Weaver, and of course Joel Edgerton as Ramses. Edgerton makes a great Egyptian leader although he does make one think of W.C. Fields and if anyone decides to make a film about the man They should cast Edgerton immediately.
There are some scenes that feel very out of place for the time period depicted. The marriage between Moses and Séfora has an exchanging of vows at a time when a man got his wife by purchasing her with cattle, goats, sheep, et al. They may well have had a ceremony where each partner delivers a little speech where they promise to honor, love, etc. It just seems highly unlikely. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is a gloriously epic depiction of Moses and the story of his taking on the Egyptian Pharaoh and winning. Christian Bale is good enough as a slightly tortured Moses and the plagues are pretty impressive as well. Exodus: Gods and Kings opens December 12 in Las Vegas. Prepare to be moved and slightly disappointed that here are no snake staffs in this version of the tale.
By Michael Smith
South Point Hotel and Casino Cinema